From real estate to tourism, 10 years has seen dramatic change in truckee | SierraSun.com

From real estate to tourism, 10 years has seen dramatic change in truckee

Christina Nelson

Ross Perot was on the ballot and big hair was still in style.

In March 1993, when Truckee officially became an incorporated town, “A River Runs Through It” was playing at the Martis Village Theater, and the highest paying job in the classifieds was for a computer aide at Kings Beach Elementary School (which paid up to $9.80 an hour).

Yes, things have changed a lot in the 10 short years since Truckee voters went to the ballot and made this an official town – and not all of them have to do with town government.

Without a doubt, home prices and the cost of living have gone up in the last 10 years, while new businesses have made their homes in Truckee to respond to a thriving tourist economy.

In 1993, for less than $200,000 you could own a three-bedroom, two-bath single family home. Today, in 2003, it’s difficult to find a piece of land in Truckee for the same price.

A March 1993 edition of Mountain Homes advertised its “featured home” – a 4,000-square-foot house with six bedrooms, four bathrooms and an exercise/recreation room – for $335,000.

“In 1993 the median sales price of a single family home in Tahoe Donner was $186,000,” said Bill Whitehead of Boice Countryside Realtors. The median price from March 2002 to March 2003 was $322,000 for the same home.

“When I first moved here there were homes in the 70 (thousands),” said Gale Etchells of Coldwell Banker in Glenshire. Etchells moved to Truckee in the late 1980s.

She, like other realtors, watched housing prices climb dramatically during the late ’90s during the dot-com boom. Before, Etchells said, Truckee was relatively “undiscovered,” just a pit stop on the way to Lake Tahoe.

After watching many of her prospective customers buy houses in Reno in the last couple of years, Etchells decided to get her Nevada real estate license.

“You get a lot less house in Glenshire than in Reno,” she said.

As home prices have gone up, long time Truckee residents have realized the value of their property and moved away.

“We have seen some people who see some equity in there and move out of the area,” Whitehead said.

Kathleen Eagan, Truckee’s first mayor, has also seen that same trend as more money has flowed into the area.

“I think that’s changing the small town character,” Eagan said. “If there’s more money, the people that are the core of the community, the fabric of the community leave because they just can’t afford it or they realize the value of their investment.”

Although often criticized for the focus on tourism, Truckee’s economy, most agree, is a lot better off because of second homes and Truckee’s new status as a destination.

“I thought Truckee was stagnant,” said Susan Diane, who moved to Truckee in the ’80s and moved away to pursue a career goal shortly after incorporation. “I knew something had to change. It was difficult to make a living whether you were a contractor or something else.”

The Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce reports that membership has doubled since 1993.

“Truckee’s economy right now is doing great,” said Karin Pierce of the chamber. “The stock market may be in the toilet but Truckee is doing great.”

“We’ve really developed our place on the map,” she added, pointing out that the chamber advertises in numerous national magazines, including Sunset, Ladies Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens.

Robie Wilson Litchfield, Truckee’s newest planning commissioner and a 33-year resident, noted that tourism has revitalized Truckee in many ways.

“There’s a lot of people that wouldn’t be able to live here without tourism and second homeowners,” she said.

Diane agreed that many good things have come out of Truckee’s destination status.

“Our property value is improving and we’re seeing Truckee become a destination, but I hope we don’t become stuck up about it.”